Stroger's Stupid Spin

Budget numbers don't add up

The travails of Gov. Rod Blagojevich have been good news for Cook County Board President Todd Stroger because he's no longer the most ridiculed politician in the state. But that doesn't mean he doesn't still have some explaining to do.

Stroger issued a press release this week to "raise [the] alarm about [the] apparent inability of some commissioners to grasp basic budget facts."

"County Board President Todd H. Stroger and his finance staff vigorously refuted the contention today by some Cook County commissioners that the County will show a significant surplus for next year," the release said.

“The reality is that some commissioners continue to insist on peddling political spin instead of the hard facts,” said President Stroger. “Perhaps since these commissioners seem unable to shake the fiction that we have a surplus, they’d at least be willing to concede that last year’s penny sales tax increase –  a tax that exempts groceries and medical supplies – was a good idea after all, since it will allow us to maintain core public health and safety services."

It's fair enough for Stroger to respond to critics on the board, but the release veers from stating the county has no budget surplus to the notion that the county will not show a "significant" surplus and back to claiming that the existence of a surplus is fiction. Then, at the end, Stroger states that "Cook County’s revenue stream for the upcoming fiscal year is expected to match costs for County services and may produce a modest surplus."

And now the Civic Federation has released a report opposing Stroger's budget, which Federation president Laurence Msallcalls "an extraordinarily bad deal for the citizens of Cook County."

Perhaps Stroger will tell us if he thinks Msall and his colleagues also have an inability to grasp basic budget facts. Chances are, though, that Stroger's the one engaging in fiction.

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